Doc­tor’s or­ders put vet­eran driver into pas­sen­ger seat

The Amherst News - - WHEELS - BY GARRY SOWERBY

It was Day 3 and the time had come to pull out of driv­ing pur­ga­tory where I had spent the week­end.

The RCMP hadn’t con­fis­cated my wheels and sus­pended my li­cence for a stunt­ing ac­tiv­ity. I wasn’t do­ing dili­gence to a no­li­cence-for-a-week penalty for a speed­ing ticket ei­ther.

The cul­prit who grounded me was eye sur­geon Dr. Dan Bel­liveau. Dr. Bel­liveau re­moved the cataract in my right eye and im­planted a crisp new in­traoc­u­lar lens. The pro­ce­dure was a 15-minute light show that dra­mat­i­cally im­proved my abil­ity to read those far-off road signs and bright­ened up the day on the right side of my field of vi­sion.

Af­ter the op­er­a­tion, the doc­tor ad­vised not to drive for a while. I fig­ured he meant for a few hours. But the dis­charge nurse sur­prised me when she stip­u­lated no driv­ing un­til af­ter a fol­lowup ap­point­ment to make sure all was good with my bionic lens.

It was Fri­day, so I wouldn’t get the green light to drive again un­til Mon­day, 72 long hours later.

What would I do all week­end with­out be­ing able to get be­hind the wheel?

The con­cept of not driv­ing any­thing was com­pletely new. Sure, I’ve gone three days with­out driv­ing but that was be­cause I had the flu or dur­ing one of those rare sit­u­a­tions where need, or want, to drive a ve­hi­cle didn’t ex­ist. But never be­cause a per­son or or­ga­ni­za­tion dic­tated I couldn’t drive.

Af­ter my wife Lisa drove me home from the hos­pi­tal I re­al­ized there were lots of things I didn’t need to think about. There would be no tear­ing the house apart look­ing for car keys.

I didn’t need to think about what was in the drive­way, what cars and trucks had to be shuf­fled around, fuel gauges, wind­shield washer fluid lev­els, or haul­ing that spring clean­ing load of trash to the land­fill.

There was no need for a pocket full of loonies and toonies to feed park­ing me­ters ei­ther.

Since I was sup­pos­edly con­va­lesc­ing, my driver, Lisa, was al­ways avail­able to take me wher­ever I needed to get to. Bratty, but af­ter be­ing the fam­ily’s go-to driver for decades, it was cool to sim­ply state my des­ti­na­tion and let her deal with ev­ery­thing ve­hic­u­lar.

Ahh the free­dom to in­dulge in my smart­phone and be a com­plete so­cial me­dia geek while in transit. Bill­boards, homes and busi­nesses I’ve never no­ticed were ev­ery­where. At traf­fic lights, I checked out the folks in other ve­hi­cles rather than du­ti­fully star­ing at the in­ter­sec­tion and wait­ing for the lights to change.

There was no avert­ing my eyes or feel­ing sorry for the boule­vard en­trepreneurs from the pas­sen­ger seat. Sure, I feel for them and their dogs, and I ap­pre­ci­ate that some want God to bless us but I will not, and have not, en­cour­aged them with a hand­out.

I was so en­grossed with be­ing a pas­sen­ger that some­times, af­ter an out­ing, I had to ask Lisa what car we had driven in.

By Sun­day I was start­ing to tire of be­ing grounded while re­al­iz­ing how much my life re­volves around be­ing be­hind a steer­ing wheel.

I’ve had the priv­i­lege of pos­sess­ing a valid driver’s li­cence for 52 years, in­clud­ing ones is­sued in New Brunswick, Saskatchewan, Bri­tish Columbia, On­tario and Nova Sco­tia. There is a slew of ex­pired In­ter­na­tional Driv­ers Per­mits in a fil­ing cabi­net be­side my desk.

Of course, there are peo­ple who live their whole lives with­out a driver’s li­cence. I re­cently learned of a re­tired friend who had never had one. I won­dered how much money he’d saved over the years, but he would never know. With­out hav­ing ever owned a ve­hi­cle, it would be dif­fi­cult to re­al­ize how ex­pen­sive it is to pur­chase, fuel, in­sure, park and main­tain one.

By Mon­day morn­ing I was ready to get the go-ahead from the eye doc­tor and pa­tiently awaited my noon ap­point­ment. I could see clearly out of my op­er­ated-on eye and had to drive to Truro that af­ter­noon and to Monc­ton the next morn­ing.

Lisa drove me to the ap­point­ment, which was over in a few min­utes. More bright lights prob­ing my eye and a pe­riod of si­lence that seemed like for­ever.

“Heal­ing very well,” Dr. Bel­liveau re­ported. “You can drive now.”

I strut­ted to the park­ing lot and asked Lisa for the car keys.

“And what did we come here in?” I asked, think­ing it was a quartz blue pearl Subaru Crosstrek. Or was it the hichroma red KIA Stinger press unit as­signed to Lisa for the week?

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